As the campaigning for the second and final phase of elections to the Gujarat assembly ended on Saturday, there was palpable nervousness in the BJP camp and anticipation among its opponents, including the intelligentsia, many of whom predict a major upset for chief minister Narendra Modi.
Modi-opponent Keshubhai Patel, who left the BJP and floated the Gujarat Parivartan Party, has received much covert as well as overt support from RSS functionaries, who have considerable respect for Congress leader Shankarsinh Vaghela, a former BJP member, too. But, as is being widely recognised, it is the common ire against Modi that unites them. Nevertheless, they have worked openly against BJP candidates in various constituencies.
Social scientist Ganesh Devy, also a writer-activist, is planning a celebration to outdo Modi's promised Diwali on the counting day, December 20, and said there was cold logic behind his jubilation.
"It is not the Congress which will defeat Modi but the BJP itself as is apparent from the open campaigns against his candidates by the party's own men. But there also is a deadly trio of the Muslims, Patels and tribals that has risen against Modi this time and these three groups could bring the BJP down to fewer than 100 seats," he said.
Shabd Sharan, campaign manager for the star BJP candidate from Akota in Baroda, scoffs at the doomsayers. "There is no challenge to the BJP anywhere in Gujarat. We will win more than two-thirds (of the seats, in a house of 182). You just wait and see."
But he is uncharacteristically angry with the Election Commission (EC) for supposedly limiting their campaign. "They should have tried their strong-arm tactics in Bihar or Madhya Pradesh. They would have been beaten up and thrown out of those states. Just because we are peaceful and non-violent, we are subjected to such injustice," said Sharan, completely unaware of the supreme irony of his statement.
But Zubair Gopalani, a businessman and an educationist associated with several schools, said there was some anger at the EC because it did not allow the BJP to mention religion in any way during its campaign. And the development plank failed because the Congress ran a concerted campaign tearing into Modi's allegedly tall development claims.
Father Albert Delgado, who works extensively among the tribals, said: "Usually Modi's claims are false, made loudly and oft-repeated, and go unchallenged. But that hasn't happened this time and people have seen through it all."